NISO Metasearch Initiative

This is the official website of NISO's Metasearch Initiative. Current final versions of committee recommendations are posted here. Working copies of documents and ongoing activities of the separate task groups are posted to the MI WIKI. 


Metasearch, parallel search, federated search, broadcast search, cross-database search, search portal are a familiar part of the information community's vocabulary. They speak to the need for search and retrieval to span multiple databases, sources, platforms, protocols, and vendors at one time. Metasearch services rely on a variety of approaches to search and retrieval including open standards (such as NISO's Z39.50), proprietary API's, and screen scraping. However, the absence of widely supported standards, best practices, and tools makes the metasearch environment less efficient for the system provider, the content provider, and ultimately the end-user.

To move toward industry solutions NISO sponsored a Metasearch Initiative to enable: 

  • metasearch service providers to offer more effective and responsive services
  • content providers to deliver enhanced content and protect their intellectual property
  • libraries to deliver services that distinguish their services from Google and other free web services.

The groundwork for NISO's Metasearch Initiative was laid in two important events: 

  • A 2-day Strategy Meeting in May 2003 defined the metasearch state-of-the-art and built consensus on ways to move forward; and
  • A Metasearch workshop in October 2003 informed librarians, content providers, aggregators about metasearch.

The reports and presentations at these two events give important background on vendor services and user needs.

MI Committees

The NISO Metasearch Initiative is co-chaired by Jenny Walker (ExLibris, Inc.) and Andrew Pace (North Carolina State University). 

Three initial task groups were established:

Clicking on the links for each task group named above will display a page describing the task group’s charter and committee members.

Approved Documents

The following documents have been approved by the Metasearch Initiative task groups and committee chairs for public use. They are either final reports or the current implementation version of recommendations.

NISO RP-2005-01, Ranking of Authentication and Access Methods Available to the Metasearch Environment
Authors: Standards Committee BA (Task Group 1): Access Management
Abstract: This report provides an evaluation and ranking of existing authentication methods, as they could be used in a metasearch environment, and recommends metasearch-related authentication best practices in today’s environment.
Status: Final. Approved September 13, 2005 
Download report

NISO Z39.91-200x, Collection Description Specification
Authors: Standards Committee BB (Task Group 2): Collection & Service Descriptions
Abstract: This draft standard defines a means of describing collections, where a collection is defined as an aggregation of items. It takes the form of a Dublin Core Application Profile, a specification of how metadata terms from the Dublin Core metadata vocabularies and from other metadata vocabularies, some constructed for use in association with this Dublin Core application profile, are used to construct a description of a collection, in accordance with the DCMI Abstract Model. It also specifies an XML binding for serializing such descriptions for interchange between applications.
Status: Draft Standard for Trial Use. Effective November 1, 2005 - October 31, 2006

NISO Z39.92-200x, Information Retrieval Service Description Specification
Authors: Standards Committee BB (Task Group 2): Collection & Service Descriptions
Abstract:: This standard defines a method of describing Information Retrieval oriented electronic services, including but not limited to those services made available via the Z39.50, SRU/SRW, and OAI protocols. The ZeeRex standard addresses the need for machine readable descriptions of services in order to enable automatic discovery of and interaction with previously unknown systems. It specifies an abstract model for service description and a binding to XML for interchange. 
Status: Draft Standard for Trial Use. Effective November 1, 2005 - October 31, 2006

NISO RP-2006-02, NISO Metasearch XML Gateway Implementers Guide
Authors: Standards Committee BC (Task Group 3): Search / Retrieve 
Abstract: This document describes the NISO Metasearch XML Gateway (MXG) protocol, which is based on the NISO-registered SRU protocol. This gateway provides a mechanism for information service providers to expose their content and services to a Metasearch engine. While the task group recognized that the longer term goal is some type of standardized query protocol based on SRU/SRW, an XML gateway provides an immediate, low entry barrier method for content providers to interact with metasearch services.
Status: Version 1.0, August 7, 2006
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NISO RP-2005-02, Results Set Metadata
Authors: Standards Committee BC (Task Group 3): Search / Retrieve
Abstract: Defines a core set of metadata elements that provide information about a result set at both the aggregate level and the individual record to provide better quality of information returned and ensure more standardized presentation of results to the end user. These data elements are intended to be used by content providers to provide better quality of information returned through a variety of methods. They may also used to ensure that the needs of metasearch products are met by a given protocol.
Status: Version 1.0, September 13, 2005
Download PDF version

Download Excel version

NISO RP-2005-03, Citation Level Data Elements
Authors: Standards Committee BC (Task Group 3): Search / Retrieve
Abstract: A minimum set of required citation level data elements has been identified to overcome the current lack of standardization in the way a citation is formatted in a record returned by a metasearch engine. Use of these data elements will allow citation information to be parsed for re-use in applications such as OpenURL linking and metadata formats such as Dublin Core.
Status: Version 1.0, August 1, 2005
Download PDF version

Download Excel version

Additional Resources

Content Provider Survey About Metasearch Practices
To further scope and understand the metasearch problem, the Search and Retrieval Task Group conducted a survey of content providers and library system vendors on the current state of metasearching. This report contains the results of that survey as well as a copy of the survey questionnaire and a glossary developed to support the survey.
Download report

NISO Metasearch Initiative Targets Next Generation of Standards and Best Practices. Against the Grain, v.18, no.1, February 2006.

Metasearch Workshop September 2005

NISO held a workshop on OpenURL and Metasearch: New Standards, Current Innovations, and Future Directions in Washington, D.C. on September 19-21, 2005. The second day of the workshop and half of the third day focused on Metasearch. In addition to providing updates on the Metasearch Initiative task group activities, many informative vendor and library presentations on metasearch were given. Presentations from the workshop are posted on the event webpage.


Committee Roster

NISO Metasearch Initiative Co-chairs

NISO Metasearch Initiative Access Management Task Group Chair

NISO Metasearch Initiative Access Management Task Group Members

Frank Cervone

Vice Chancellor for Information Services
Purdue University Calumet

Ed Riding

Catalog Program Manager
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Church History Library

NISO Metasearch Initiative Collection Description Task Group Chair

NISO Metasearch Initiative Collection Description Task Group Members

Maja Zumer

National Library of Slovenia University of Ljubljana

NISO Metasearch Initiative Search/Retrieve Task Group Co-chairs

NISO Metasearch Initiative Search/Retrieve Task Group Members

Ricc Ferrante

Information Technology Archivist & Director of Digital Services
Smithsonian Institution Archives